It is interesting to observe how over time, we can forget realities that were once at the forefront of the minds and hearts of many. This world can have that effect on us. We are all so busy. As a result, that which we can readily see, rather than the unseen, tends to take over in our lives. As our lives become more intense and more pressure filled, our hope in the unseen can begin to fade. As St. Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians, “We do not look at the things which are seen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” This world rubs off on us in such a way, that we can begin to lose awareness of realities that offer us so much hope. Hope, for many, is harder to come by these days. Perhaps it is not so much that we lose hope, as it is that we forget that which can bring us hope. Increasingly, we become more preoccupied with what we can see and touch, and the unseen fades from our consciousness. In essence, it gets buried under the more immediate tasks, needs, and heartaches that so dominate this earthly life.
Having an interest in history, I was recently reading about the Royal Flying Corps in WWI. I came across the photo of a headstone of a young pilot. He was 20 years, the only son of his parents, and sadly was shot down on June 29, 1918. I observed on his faded headstone the inscription that his parents had inscribed, “Till the day breaks and the shadows flee away.” I pondered the quote for a moment. I soon realized it was a veiled reference to the Eighth Day. The Eighth Day is a concept that appears early in church history but has largely become forgotten by many. In forgetting the concept of the Eighth Day we have denied ourselves a great source of hope. St. Gregory Palamas makes several references to it in his homily on the Transfiguration. The Eighth Day is the first day not in this world. It is the first day in the Kingdom of heaven. It is the day in which the sun never sets. It is a day that lasts for eternity. The Apostle John tells us in the Book of Revelation “The city had no need of the sun or moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” So, the light that never sets and that illumines the Kingdom of Heaven, is the light of Christ Himself. We also know it as the uncreated light of God. We also call this the light of the Eighth Day. St. Gregory wrote of this extensively. The light that shone on Mt. Tabor during the event of the Transfiguration, was the light of the Eighth Day. The light we are vouchsafed with upon our baptisms is also the light of the Eighth Day. St. Gregory helped us to understand that even some, when in intense prayer, may catch a glimpse of the uncreated light. On Holy Saturday night, while the church is dark, the priest emerges from the altar with the paschal candle and chants, “Come take light from the light that is never over-taken by night, come glorify Christ risen from the dead”. The light of the Resurrection is the light of the Eighth Day. Indeed, all of Bright Week is considered to be the Eighth Day and considered to be one continuous day.
We were not meant for darkness. It is only natural that we should prefer light. No one really enjoys darkness. Indeed, how many of us lament the short days of winter and how many of us rejoice as we begin counting how each day becomes a minute longer in January. In this world we are subjected to a wearisome grind of a day and night cycle, that in today’s world, allows us little time for peace and rest. It is indeed a grind. The Eighth Day is the end to that wearisome seven-day cycle. It is the day that transcends all our stresses, fears, and pressures. Perhaps this concept of the Eighth Day can resonate more with us now, because of how we can relate to the wearisome cycle in which we are trapped in this world.
No earthly pain or sorrow can touch or reach the Eighth Day. It is the day not of this world. We catch a further glimpse of this day in the Book of Revelation, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” We take note that the former things will have passed away. The former things are all that which so consume and burden us. Can we imagine? What a profound moment it will be when we arrive upon the Eighth Day. There is no doubt there will be a profound awareness that all is done. All is finished. There will be no more yearning, no more struggle. There will be no more fear, nor will there be any more loss or grief. All will be complete and fulfilled. It is likely that we cannot even comprehend the peace of that moment. Knowing that this day will come, this Eighth Day, why would we not be more mindful of it while in this present life?
In revisiting and rediscovering the reality of the Eighth Day, we have a new way to reframe our deaths and those of our loved ones. Those who have departed this world are now in the time and space of the Eighth Day. The day that never ends or sets. Is this such a sad reality? Seen from this perspective then, are not our own departures from this world simply an arrival upon the Eighth Day? Indeed, they are. Now we rejoice over the long days of summer, how much more so should we anticipate with good cheer and hope, the arrival of the day that breaks the seven-day week, brings an end to all our heartache and labors, and brings us to the light that never sets.
Though there a few who might catch a glimpse of the light of the Eighth Day while in this world due to their ascetical labors, for most of us just knowing it exists is a source of hope and comfort. St. Gregory Palamas tells us that what the physical sun is to non-believers is what the light of Christ is to the faithful. If we could just be more mindful of that which cannot yet be seen, that is, the light of the Eighth Day, then perhaps we could say that there is no such thing as a cloudy day for those who believe. It is also so fascinating how we worry about retirements and take painstaking steps to prepare for that stage of earthly life that is so limited in years, yet we quite easily forget the eternity of the Eighth Day. Indeed, it seems that some re-allocating of our attention and resources are in order.
May we all be mindful of the light of Eighth Day which we were given upon our baptisms. May we carry the awareness of it in our minds and hearts. Finally, while in the grind of this seven-day week, let us keep an unceasing vigil in our hearts for that Eighth Day; the day that never sets and where all is accomplished and put to rest.